Jailed American in Cuba Sues U.S., Employer in Washington 5

By Tom Schoenberg, tschoenberg@bloomberg.net, Nov 16, 2012 6:19 PM ET

Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor arrested and jailed in Cuba, accused the government and his employer of ignoring the dangers of his assignment in the Communist nation and failing to protect him properly. Gross, in a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Washington, alleged the U.S. and Development Alternatives Inc. didn’t provide him with training and education to minimize risks to his safety and refused to pull him out of the country after he expressed concerns about the operation. Gross and his wife are seeking $60 million in damages. “DAI engaged in this behavior — putting profits before safety — despite having, along with defendant United States, superior knowledge regarding the risks posed to Mr. Gross,”Scott Gilbert, a lawyer for Gross, wrote in the complaint.

Gross, 63, was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cuba when he was arrested Dec. 3, 2009, and charged with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” He has maintained his innocence while serving a 15-year sentence. Gross’s detention heightened tensions between Cuba and the U.S., which has called for his immediate release and rejected charges that he was a spy for carrying telecommunications equipment to the island. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, failed to win Gross’s release in a visit to Cuba last year.

Rejected Offer

The U.S. also last year rejected an offer to release a group of five convicted Cuban spies as part of a deal to free Gross. “We are disappointed that the Gross family has chosen to file a law suit at this point in time,” Steven O’Connor, a spokesman for Bethesda, Maryland-based DAI, said in an e-mailed statement. “As much as we would like to address the numerous disagreements we have with the content of the complaint, the fact is that doing so will not advance the cause of bringing Alan home, which remains our highest priority.” He said “we will have a chance to tell DAI’s side of this story in due course.” Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Jewish Communities

Gross was in Cuba as part of a contract his company had with USAID to establish wireless networks and Internet connections for non-dissident Cuban Jewish communities. Cuba state prosecutors accused him of performing a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution” by disseminating distorted information about the government. Gross told DAI in post-trip reports that the project was “very risky,” warning supervisors that unauthorized use of radio frequencies “usually means confiscation of equipment and arrest of users,” according to the complaint. After his fourth trip to the country, Gross described efforts by Cuban officials to “sniff out” wireless networks and other radio-frequency use outside of Havana. DAI passed the memos on to USAID, which ignored his concerns, Gross alleges. “Defendant United States continued, without any adjustment, the Cuba ICT Project, using Mr. Gross as a pawn in its overall Cuban policy efforts,” according to the complaint.

The case is Gross v. Development Alternatives Inc., 12-cv-1860, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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5 comments

  1. I have been saying for years that Alan Gross is a mercenary and a traitor for denouncing his country in a failed attempt to get a lighter sentence. This lawsuit proves his true intentions. He should man up and complete the rest of his sentence without whimpering.

  2. Gross knew full well what kind of a country Cuba was and what were the dangers facing a US citizen working for USAID. And if he were not aware, his first stay in Cuba should have been sufficient to make him have serious doubts about continuing his employment. However, it is known he was in a dire financial situation…

    The law suit he brings against the US and his former employer plays right into the hands of the Cuban communist government and its propaganda machine and might be part of some deal designed to release him for humanitarian reasons, given the worsening of his health. This would be a smaller victory for the Havana government after it became clear that the bigger victory: Gross’ s exchange for the Cuban 5, seems to be out of reach. At the Cádiz summit, Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, told his Spanish counterpart that Ángel Carromero may be allowed to serve his 4 year prison sentence in Spain. Therefore, Raúl Castro´s regime is trying to play the humanitarian card to improve its image worldwide.

    The Cuban government’s paranoia about wireless networks and the claim of Cuban state prosecutors that Gross´s project was “subversive and aiming at bringing down the revolution” are very similar to what I lived in Romania under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. At that time there were no computers and wireless networks in Romania but the main threat posed to the regime were the televisions of the surrounding “fraternal socialist countries”: the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. These broadcasts were received in some parts of Romania and they showed a different socialist reality: people were better fed and dressed, they spoke more freely, there was no personality cult and there was more entertainment on television, as compared to what was going on in Romania which had food shortages and frequent power cuts (apagones) just like in Cuba and where people were urged to make sacrifices for “building up a multilaterally developed socialist society”. Even more subversive that the fraternal socialist televisions were the few VCRs existing at that time in Romania because the recorded “socialist entertainment” could be passed on from one viewer to another for a handsome fee. And those people who made improvised antennas for improving reception of socialist TV stations were punishable by law. However, the war waged by the Romanian State Security against socialist TV stations, VCRs and improvised antennas did not save the dictatorship. The same will happen in Cuba.

    Sergio Klein
    Jerusalem
    Nov.17.2012

  3. We all know that if someone travel to Cuba he is doing it at his own risk.Cuba is not a free country and the visitor does not enjoy the citizen rights they enjoy when they come to America.Gross when to Cuba knowing there was a change he was going to end up in prison there.I know I can not visit Cuba because if I go I will be executed,now if I’m stupid to travel there knowing the implications,how can I say that no one mentioned this to me in advance?there is no logic on what Mr Gross is trying to do.

  4. We all know that if someone travel to Cuba he is doing it at his own risk.Cuba is not a free country and the visitor does not enjoy the citizen rights they enjoy when they come to America.Gross went to Cuba knowing there was a change he was going to end up in prison there.I know I can not visit Cuba because if I go I will be executed,now if I’m stupid to travel there knowing the implications,how can I say that no one mentioned this to me in advance?there is no logic on what Mr Gross is trying to do.

  5. Mr Gross like Antonio de la cova said ,he should man up.If you are busted there and you have to do time,simply do it and if you get kill,so be it but you should never denounce your own country to save your skin.you don’t betray the government you are serving.SIMPLE!

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